Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Talent and Innovation Hub for Chicago?

As another example of the growing presence of talent and innovation hubs around the world, a proposal is now being considered for Chicago. The Discovery Partners Institute would be placed on Chicago's south side and would include multiple higher education institutions in Illinois.

While the November election may determine if the DPI moves forward or not, it is significant that Chicago is viewed as a promising location for an entity that is increasingly becoming more common among the world's greatest cities.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Contrasts between elites and mainstream education

Anyone familiar with the difference between private colleges/universities and public institutions knows how different facilities may be. Furthermore, the elite institutions often seem packaged as separate enclaves with high fences and locked gates for those who were not able, or did not wish to pay, for the elitism.

When "bubble" institutions exist off-shore in branch programs/campuses, the difference between institutions can seem even more stark. Such is evidently the case at Yale-NUS and NUS (National University of Singapore) which have campuses side-by-side. This opinion piece is from a student who points out the struggle he faces in bridging the gap between these two institutions. To him, the Yale-NUS students are no different than NUS. Indeed, both are extraordinary institutions and why would there need to be any setting apart between the two? Are U.S. or European elite brands simply spreading and enhancing their reputations or do these partnerships serve the interest of the countries that host them and the students who attend them?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Financing higher education in India

Striving to expand opportunities to pursue higher education, India has created new institutions and enrollments are exploding. However, public funds to support the expansion are falling short of what is needed. The result is rising costs for students/families and other methods designed to generate revenues or reduce costs.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Innovation in on-line and seamless education

Reinforcing its reputation as one of the disruptors of higher education convention in the U.S., Southern New Hampshire University recently acquired LRNG, a Chicago-based non-profit focused on helping young people obtain jobs by involving them in game-based learning platforms.

Paul LeBlanc, SNHU's President, indicates that students will be able to earn digital badges through LRNG that can be applied toward a competency-based degree from SNHU's College of America program. College of America offers associate and bachelor's degrees based on direct assessment rather than accumulation of credit hours with a cost of only $5,000/year in tuition. The SNHU/LRNG rollout will occur in two locales (Chicago and Birmingham, Alabama) and considerations are underway to provide physical spaces to engage in face-to-face learning, perhaps through local libraries.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Proposal to set maximum period of stay for international students

Trump administration officials continue to spend their time dreaming up new ways to control international student enrollment in U.S. institutions. One proposal establishes specific visa period limits. This article closes with the caveat that the proposed new rules may never be implemented but the point is what message are prospective international students taking away from repeated scrutiny and persistence in clamping down on international students?

On the other hand, Trump officials will propose new rules for the lottery for the 85,000 H-1B visas that will give priority to international students who have received advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. Officials indicate that this could increase the likelihood of these internationals receiving the H-1B visa by as much as 15%. A White House meeting convened on March 8, 2019, "focused on international students and their ability to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation - their interest in doing so, the barriers they face and how they could be encouraged to stay." The fact that such a meeting was initiated shows promise and participants reported a positive and constructive atmosphere.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Political leanings of student affairs educators

A professor at Sarah Lawrence College, Samuel J. Abrams, first criticized what he believed to be a liberal political bias in programs offered outside of class and subsequently broadened his critique to other university administrators. As a way to explore why, he conducted a survey of  900 "student-facing" administrators across the country. His finding - 71% of them had either a liberal or very liberal political perspective. Abrams' research didn't explicitly connect his sample's political views with programs that they offer; he presumed that liberal bias would lead to more liberal inclinations in programs. Countering Abrams' assertion, Kevin Kruger, President of the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators, indicated that student affairs staff have a "strong desire to create 'an equal and open dialogue across ideologies'" and that these beliefs don't mean that the programs they offer are explicitly connected to a particular ideology.

Student affairs educators' philosophical perspectives originate from Dewey's "democratic education" approach and thus represent progressive and engaged learning. Considerable research on student learning over the last 100 years has documented that an experience-based and progressive approach that reinforces students' responsibility for their learning is most effective in preparing graduates for workplaces and service to their communities. This is not an ideological but a pedagogical concern.

I'm left wondering if Professor Abrams and others quoted in the article have attempted to look at the role of student affairs from an educational perspective rather than one that is political. Matthew C. Woesner, an associate professor at Penn State, wrote that "Even though faculty sometimes inject their politics into the classroom, administrators without an academic background don't always see the same need to balance viewpoints or inspire debate. Sometimes administrators aren't even aware of how insular their beliefs are." Woesner's comment reflects ignorance that student affairs educators are deeply informed of and utilize well established pedagogical practices in their work.

Dafina Lazarus-Stewart reinforced the points above in her response to the report of Abrams' research.

Russia strives for international rankings

Russia appears in media on a regular basis but not usually in recognition for its prominence in higher education. The fact is, in a connected and knowledge-based world, having excellent universities is a must. So, Russia has declared the Project 5/100 Project that strives for top 100 international ranking for five of its universities by 2020. Ararat Osipian raises question in an essay on the current state of Russia's best universities.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Chinese acquisition of U.S. institutions

Chinese entities are pursuing a number of strategies in order to expand educational opportunity. One approach has been to purchase existing U.S. institutions. The purchase of Westminster Choir College is one of the more recent, now being challenged through legal action of alumni, donors, and faculty.

Various tensions are evident in this and other examples of Chinese purchase of educational institutions. One tension driving the concerns of those employed by these institutions is survival; a possible outcome of not being purchased is that Westminster could cease to exist. But this prospect is one faculty/staff may be willing to face because of fear that academic freedom will be curtailed if the institution is owned by a Chinese entity.

Larry Livingston, interim President of the Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corporation, counters arguments that Westminster's character and academic freedom could be compromised saying, "I am excited about the opportunities this new relationship will create. There is no back story here. Kaiwen Education (the purchasing entity) deeply respects Westminster Choir College and is willing to help the school become even better, and more financially secure. It is in Kaiwen Education's interest for Westminster to remain the high-quality institution that it has been throughout its vaunted history, and for it to succeed."

Suspicion about China's involvement in U.S. institutions has been rising due to reports of theft of intellectual property. However, sweeping all partnerships into one category is likely a mistake. What many faculty/staff in U.S. institutions don't realize is that there are already many partnerships where foreign entities (including governmental) own parts of U.S. institutions. U.S. branch university programs are a prime example where governments are often the ultimate financial provider and owner of the facilities and operations taking place on foreign soil; in these cases the contractual agreement drives the critical aspects of academic freedom, independence in hiring decisions, granting of degrees, etc.

The Kaiwen Education purchase of Westminster Choir College may be one of the more interesting cases to follow. Westminster is a noted training institution of musicians for evangelical Christian churches. An agreement to maintain Westminster's current focus as an institution would then require ownership of an institution that actively evangelizes through its preparation of musicians, an interesting dynamic for a Chinese entity to maintain.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Asian student discrimination

The fact that Asian students may face discrimination is not a surprise to most higher education faculty and staff. That it is so common may lead to overlooking its impact but Emma Whitford offers a more personal insight that reveals the ugly dynamics that are often experienced by Asian students.

Two things contribute to ignoring discrimination against Asian students: 1) many Americans don't recognize the languages and distinctive characteristics among the diverse array of Asian cultures, and 2) the large number of Chinese students who study in the U.S. When all Asian students, whether international or Asian-American, are lumped together, patterns of avoidance and marginalization push Asian students even further to the margin where the criticism of separatism (they all 'hang together') is very hard to overcome.

"They're taking over..." is the phrase that is often used to justify the discriminatory beliefs of those who perpetrate discrimination. This phrase has been used throughout history to stoke fear and isolation between cultural groups. There is no evidence to support such a belief and educators should quickly counter claims of this nature.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Politics of Study Abroad

Hosting international students by U.S. institutions has been politicized through the actions of the Trump administration, first with the ban on students from Islamic countries and now the considerations advocated by Stephen Miller to ban all Chinese students. Studying abroad is also influenced by politics in the example of faculty declining to support U.S. students' desire to study in Israel. At issue is the allegation that immigration officials discriminate in granting visas for students to study in Israel, specifically "... students of Palestinian, Middle Eastern, and Muslim background, who attempt to travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories." 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Falling confidence in higher education

Higher education in the U.S.A. is experiencing multiple stressors - enrollment pressure, budget crises, and falling confidence among the public. The Gallup Organization is the most recent entity to publish evidence that the public has significant concerns about the nation's colleges and universities. Down to 48% overall having confidence, higher education experienced the largest drop compared to other entities such as military, small business, and police, each of which enjoys more positive responses.

Republican respondents were most critical of higher education, although confidence among independents and democrats fell as well. Soul searching is in order as Harvard University's President Bacow warns, "more people than we would like to admit believe that universities are not nearly as open to ideas from across the political spectrum as we should be; that we are becoming unaffordable and inaccessible, out of touch with the rest of America; and that we care more about making our institutions great than about making the world better."

Having spent my entire adult career in higher education, seeing the drop in confidence is devastating. I've always assumed that higher education is both a private benefit and a public good and my life experience has demonstrated that belief; I am better and I've sought to make a difference in the world as a direct consequence of access to higher education. It isn't only about earning power, a claim made by many U.S. universities to bolster the numbers willing to pay the price of attendance. Many of the issues education leaders face are self-inflicted; examples include exploitive marketing, elitism, detachment, and allowing faculty a pass on accountability for student learning and success.

Time to heed the warnings so that U.S. higher education can reposition for a future where attendance is widely available and the impact is indisputable.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Philosophy of education

How we approach our work in higher education is deeply shaped by our philosophical assumptions. Whether constructed upon implicit or explicit beliefs, our philosophy of education is central to our practice. Because many in higher education do not understand student affairs and development, it is therefore even more important that a well-considered and explicit philosophy guide our practice.

Matt Reed's essay advocates that all educators should have a written philosophy. I've had one for my entire 40+ year career. It has served as a north star for me in making decisions about what jobs I would seek/take, the priorities I would pursue in my work, and what things I would not do. I highly recommend taking the time to outline your educational philosophy. Mine has always been no longer than one page and includes both narrative and bullet statements. Draft one if you don't have one at this time; share it with others and you'll have some great conversations.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

International graduate student enrollment declining

An update of graduate student enrollment indicates that numbers in the U.S.A. are declining. The decline varies by type of institution with large, research-extensive, institutions actually seeing increases. However, the overall enrollment is declining. While causes cannot be definitively determined, two likely factors are greater competition from other countries and the perception/reality of a hostile climate resulting from Trump administration statements and actions.

Stephen Miller, advisor to President Trump and a leader in devising strategies to reduce immigration, went as far as proposing that all Chinese students be denied visas for enrollment in U.S.A. institutions. The uncertainty caused by even discussion of this type of policy change is likely to cause Chinese students, the largest proportion of U.S.A. international students, to look elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Students taking responsibility for their learning

Erik Gilbert recently raised the question of "who is responsible for student learning?" in an essay after he attended a conference of the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education. He indicated that most of the discussion at the conference was about what faculty should do, neglecting the question of student responsibility.

Mr. Gilbert raises a question that has been addressed by research over many years. Alexander Astin was very significant in shifting the narrative from faculty and institution responsibility to students when he discovered through ongoing analysis at the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA that the most important influence in students' learning was their relationship with each other. Gilbert concludes, "students and their ability and willingness to do the hard work of learning are an important and often overlooked variable in the discussion of student learning."

Students' lives are complicated by technology, social media, campus culture and many other things. These environmental conditions can either distract from or contribute to engagement in learning; international educators should strive to reduce the distraction and increase the focus of learning environments through whatever means they can influence.